Monday, November 29, 2010

Good bye for now!

Well, dear loyal readers, I'm bringing the corporate gypsy tales to a close. My goal was to make it all the way through 2010, and I'm falling a little short of that. I'm going to blame the onset of the holidays, plus end of year close at my job, and all of the commitments that entails.

I want to say sincerely that I have had so much fun doing this! It was a great project and thank you to everyone who read!!

No worries, I'll still be continuing my corporate travels. So, if you see a girl falling down, throwing up, poking her eye out with a folder, dancing in an elevator, wearing inappopriate attire, crying in an airport-it's likely me!

Thank you!!

Monday, November 8, 2010

When Customers Attack

My husband and I got caught up in a fascinating show this past weekend. It was about people who decide to get wild animals and keep them as pets. I don't mean a lizard or something, I mean tigers, buffalo, boa constrictors, etc. It was pretty crazy. What was the most interesting to me, was that these people actually believed that they had a "special" relationship with the animal that would keep them safe.

In thinking more about this, I realize I do the same thing with my customers. I expect them to act a certain way. I think that because I do something for them, they will in turn do something for me. I let my guard down and expose myself to risk because we've enjoyed this friendly relationship for a time. Dangerous!

Around this time of year, when we are all under extreme pressure to meet this end of year goal or hit that specific number, we need our customers to act right. They don't. You see, they are under similar pressure to save their companies money, to submit an improved budget for next year, etc. My goals and their goals, simply aren't the same this time of year. I need them to keep giving us money, and they want to give us less money or stop giving us money altogether.

It is troublesome to say the least. I can hear myself, telling my boss something like, "Oh, they should be fine, we've got awesome relationships in there. Plus we helped them out earlier in the year with that issue they had". Suddenly my customers forget these things.

"Who are you?", I want to scream! "Don't you remember I came to the receptionist's baby shower, and gave a generous gift, and brought chips??? Seriously??? Are we acting like that did not happen???"

These same people who called you in tears, desperately needing help earlier in the year, will forget your kindness. They will forget that you helped them, how they thanked you, went on and on about how great you are.

It's a good reminder to me that business is just not emotional. You can certainly use that aspect when you need to, and you should absolutely try to remind your customers of those times. However, there are no guarantees that being nice will get you much of anything. Don't get me wrong, you should be nice, but to rely on that is about as crazy as keeping a lion in your back yard!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Calamity Jane

First of all, let me apologize to my faithful readers (all 4 of you). I know that I have been very behind on my goal of weekly blogging. My gypsy travels have kept me very busy of late, and I will try to get back on track for the rest of the year.

Now, let me entertain you with yet another tale of physical woe, which seem to be the most popular. This event happened earlier this summer, after one of my vacations, while I was not yet "back in the saddle", as they say. It was the Monday after being out an entire week and I was asked to do an "emergency" presentation for a potential client. Thankfully I've been doing this long enough to be able to pretty much get through most things with very little prep, so off I went.

After getting up early and driving 2 hours, I arrived and met my co-workers a little early. We met in the parking deck, as we often do, like people engaging in sketchy behavior. My co-worker, knowing that I had been out, had graciously done some of the prep work and prepared "literature" for the attendees, or propaganda as we call it.

We went over the presentation, points we wanted to make etc, and headed to the elevator. Carrying his huge stack of pointy folders with said propaganda, my co-worker and I entered the elevator. I asked a question, he swung around to answer, and I took a pointy folder right in the eye. It hurt. It hurt a lot. It ripped my contact (thank goodness I was wearing them or I might have sustained a serious injury) and lead to literal weeping of the eye. It was unstoppable. Not only could I not see, but water was oozing from my face.

This is not really how you want to address about 20 potential customers. So I headed off to the ladies room, removed the torn contact, but could not stop the watering. I discreetly put several squares of toilet paper in my pocket, and pressed on.

We set up the room so that I was sitting with my "bad eye" not facing the crowd. I could not see out of my afflicted eye at all, and it continued to water. I tried to blot it casually, but I'm sure they thought I was crazy.

Once the presentation was done, I was faced with the dilemma of how to drive home with one eye. Our manager at the time, who showed up late, and quickly assessed the situation with a "are you serious right now?" widening of the eyes, offered up a solution. He also wore contacts and had an extra one, which I put in to the injured eye and while I'm sure we had different prescriptions, short of an eye patch and limited depth perception, it was the best option.

After listening to our explanation, dubiously I might add, he took one look at me and said, "Wow Calamity Jane, this is some sort of record, even for you".

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fall into Fall

In my great state, a wide variety of people exist. An especially interesting subset of native North Carolinians are "mountain folk". Now, having just come back from a beautiful week in Asheville, the mountains have a lot going for them. This time of year, that part of the state is undeniably gorgeous. However, people who are born & raised in this area, are just a little different. Not bad different, just different.

Let me give you an example. I went to a client's office for a meeting. In the waiting room, they had an extremely elaborate fall "display", for lack of better terminology. Pumpkins, scare crows, leaves, etc, all piled up on a table, and artfully so. It was lovely, but I did think, "Wow, who has the time to put that together?". One year I gave out ritz crackers in a complete lack of preparation for Halloween.

Well, I was not the only one taking it all in. There was a group of 3 gentlemen (and I'm using that term loosely) also in the waiting room. This is a transcript (as best I can remember it) of their (NOT KIDDING) 10 minute conversation:

Mountain man #1: "That's purdy right there".
Mountain man #2: "It is, it sure does make me think of the seasons".
Mountain man #3: "That's nothin'. You need to come here at Christmas."
Mountain man #1: (eyes wide with astonishment) "Why, what happens at Christmas?"
Mountain man #3: "Well, they do a giant nutcracker display. They got all kinds of nutcrackers. Tiny ones, giant ones, ones as big as me & you".
Mountain man #2: "Do they light it up?"
Mountain man #3: "Of course they light it up, don't be a moron."

And so on. These 3 grown men had an elaborate conversation about seasonal decorating that I could not believe. The level of detail and genuine interest in this discussion was crazy. I almost laughed out loud.

I tell you this, I will look forward to seeing that life size nutcracker, lit up, come Christmas!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Free Stuff

People love free stuff. There's really no denying it, but sometimes I am amazed at the power of free stuff. Now rest assured, I am not immune to this myself. I am that idiot at the make up counter who will buy $40 more worth of stuff I don't really need, to get tiny sample sizes of more things I don't need. The "free gift". Also have you ever noticed that most of the time the things in the free gift are horrible? Like a strange tote bag in an awkward size and lipstick colors not found in nature, that would not flatter anyone?

Anyway, I'm not one to knock free stuff, as my entire career is built on Starbucks gift cards. I am shocked by their power. Business owners who normally would not make eye contact with me will give me 30 minutes of their time for a $5 gift card. Now, five dollars will barely get you a latte at Starbucks these days, and that's if you don't get too fancy, yet somehow it works! Now, I'm sure if I offered people a five dollar bill, it would not have the same effect.

My company also has normal type stuff, "swag" as it's often called, to give out to our customers. Pens w/ our logos, stress balls, etc. It is crazy how people will fight over these things! People who I know make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, all jockeying over the same twenty-nine cent pen.

Heaven help you if you don't bring enough for everyone. You will find yourself in a sea of dirty looks, then making crazy promises like "I will mail you 10 more next week". And then you have to do it. So you spend more on postage than these items are even worth so that everybody gets a pen that will stop working or run out of ink in probably 4 days.

One of my co-workers recently had a dilemma with a pack of playing cards. She had promised the guy she was meeting with, "Yes, I will bring you some 'insert company name here' playing cards when I come". Now, first of all, who needs playing cards? Do people (outside of my family, who will caught up in a 4 hour spades tournament from time to time) even play cards anymore?

Well, she goes to her meeting and she has lost the cards. She can't find them anywhere after a thorough search of the rental car. Then the guy gets miffed about it! Incredible. I'm sure she had to go buy some playing cards and send them to him, and then it wasn't "the same" because they did not have the company logo.

The power of free! Remember that next time you need to get someones attention. People say their time is priceless, I say, nope, it's the cash equivalent of one grande pumpkin spice latte!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Over Dressed

As is common knowledge, I struggle about what to wear fairly often. Most of the time, I probably am close enough to acceptable to only draw minimal comments, which is good. I have always erred on the side of being under dressed if there is doubt. I think a girl in jeans among trousers can fly under the radar much more easily than the girl in a sequin dress among girls in khakis.

Not everyone agrees with this, it is the worst fear of some to not be the best dressed in the room. One year at the pageant (the pageant is what I lovingly call the big annual meeting at my job), I saw someone way over dressed. Or actually, under dressed depending on how you look at it.

At the annual meeting, we have "formal" night, which is a big fancy dinner and awards, among other things. Now "formal" in business can mean lots of different things, and I always hate the men on this night. They get to put on a suit with a tie and they have instant appropriateness. For us ladies, it's a little different. Some go really fancy, others pretty casual, and in general it is prime people watching. I try to go very camouflage, like if someone actually looked at me they would think "well, that's fine", but hopefully what I'm wearing is not causing people to actually look at me.

It is pretty common on formal night to have before dinner cocktail parties, hosted by various managers. Since I dotted line report to multiple people, I generally try to make at least a brief appearance at multiple parties. One year I walked in, a little late, to one of my favorite manager's receptions. Now, unbeknown to him, he was being "honored" for a special award. Several people got up and spoke and it was very nice. Right in the middle of the honorees acceptance speech, in walks a woman. Now, she was not going camouflage. I will admit to you, I thought she was a "lady of the night".

Because I work with a bunch of inappropriate, practical joke playing people (myself included), I immediately assumed that they had hired a stripper for the poor man accepting the award. I was immediately furious. I walked over to them and hissed, "Are you crazy? This is actually nice, do you guys have to do this?? He is not going to be amused at all!".

Well, they were extremely confused because, dear reader, this was a fellow employee. She had apparently gone for the deadly mix of formal and inappropriate. A horrible combination. Thankfully she did not interrupt the touching ceremony. Or did she? I will say she stole the spotlight, but not in a good way.

I've reflected on it several times, and at the end of the day, who am I to judge? I've certainly caught my own reflection at times and been horrified. Maybe she has male room-mates, who assured her this was a great outfit. Maybe it just looked different in front of the full length mirror in her bedroom? I can't say, but I do fall back on this memory from time to time. Most of the time when I look in the mirror, my thought is "well, that's as good as it gets", but sometimes I think "well, you probably won't be mistaken for a hooker".

Friday, September 10, 2010

End of the Cope Rope

Have you ever just had it? Emotionally, physically? I had that experience on a plane once. I do seem to have problems with flying, but most of the time I can work my way out of it. Once on the way home from Chicago, I was not able to. It had been an extremely long work meeting and I think I'd had a glass of wine while waiting with co-workers in the airport.

I boarded my flight, feeling relatively okay. As soon as we took off, I knew I was in trouble. I suddenly starting feeling like maybe I might throw up or burst into tears. Now, when having this sort of mental/physical break down, your traveling companion is really important. I knew I was really in trouble when I glanced to my right (thankfully, I was at least on the aisle) and saw the worst traveling companion possible, the frequent flyer businessman.

Now, you know who I mean. That guy that will run you down like a dog to get in front of you. He has to be first on the plane, he has to get his over sized suitcase in the overhead first, he has to get his drink order taken first, etc. They are the worst, they really define rude.

So, he won't even make eye contact with me, he is for sure not chatting through this with me.

Okay, I tell myself, here comes the flight attendant with drinks. This is nothing a little gingerale won't cure. I get the gingerale, no better. Then the unthinkable happens, they park the drink cart right in front of me, blocking me in completely. Now, when you are on the verge of a panic attack, this is not good. I decided I must make them move it, but I must make up a good reason.

"Umm, I'm so sorry, but I have to go to the bathroom right now". I don't have to go at all. Plus I've got this gingerale. So, oddly, I go to the bathroom with my gingerale. I go sit in there for a minute, sadly realizing I have ruined my gingerale, because surely it has absorbed the germs that are the airplane bathroom. Being in that tiny room is not doing anything good, so back I go. Now all I have is un-drinkable gingerale.

I try to read. Not helping. I look at the businessman again, praying I've misjudged him and now he will become this super supportive guy. Nope.

Well, this is it. It's time for what I save for worst case scenario. The tiny air vent thing on the ceiling. Now, I try to save this for absolute last minute freak out. Like this whole time I'm thinking, "Okay, if the gingerale doesn't help, maybe I'll turn the air on", "If getting the drink cart out of the way doesn't work, then the air".

I decide it's time. I reach up, and twist the air vent. NOTHING! No air comes out. Here I am expecting this ambrosia-like whiff of air that will somehow revive me and nothing happens!!

I start crying. Not loud, just tears running down my face because I'm sure I won't make it. That's it, sorry uninvolved businessman, you're involved. I do not ask him, I do not look at him, I just hoist myself up on our shared arm rest (which OF COURSE he has hijacked with his jacket) and grab his air vent. I point it towards myself and turn it on.

It works. The air helps. This odd behavior does get at least a look, of course a look of annoyance, from mr. business. I narrow my eyes and give him my best "you don't want to start something with me right now", through tears, and it works. He does an indignant eye roll, but no comment.

"Go ahead", I say to him telepathically, "touch that air vent and see what happens".

Though I've been on a few transatlantic flights, that not more than an hour was the longest in my life.

The moral of this story, be compassionate with your flying companions. You just might save somebody from getting to the end of their cope rope!